Search The Tattler

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again:
December 31, 2013 Is Like December 31, 2012
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

The Tattler introduces a new feature:  We're going to re-post our September 2012 story on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st until City Hall stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan as they are required to do (see the story below for details).  This feature will act as an annual clearinghouse for any news on the hold up of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard over the previous year.   Readers bored or exasperated with the ongoing story of City Hall inaction on Horton Street can now simply read the year end (short) synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post.  
I wake up every day, right here in Punxsutawney,
and it's always February 2nd, 
there's nothing I can do about it.

This year the City Council, under pressure from the Bike Committee, didn't implement the Bike Plan but directed that a $10,000 "study of the study" be performed.  The new study means residents waiting for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard are no longer waiting for the Plan to be implemented but rather they're waiting on the adjunct study to be completed.
If the Bike Committee remains vigilant over 2014, perhaps residents next December 31st will be waiting on a "study of the study of the study".  We'll just have to wait and see.  Check back on December 31, 2014 to get the latest report on Godot...uh...the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story:

Major Traffic Calming Long Past Due For Horton Street

Emeryville's premiere bicycle thoroughfare, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, has so much high speed traffic that it has become unsafe for bicycling.  So says Alta Planning, a Berkeley based urban bike network design firm that was commissioned by the City of Emeryville to study bicycling in town.  The $200,000 study, now incorporated into Emeryville's Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and adopted into law by the city council lays waiting, ready to be implemented.
The question is, will it really be implemented or will it languish in some dusty corner at City Hall as so many other expensive studies have done?  Given the city council's baleful history of failing to calm the traffic on Horton Street for bicycle traffic and working to improve the street for vehicle use at the expense of bicycling, it seems likely it will be ignored and will remain a major automobile thoroughfare, unsafe for bicycles and becoming increasingly more so over time.  

Central to the Alta study is a limit on the number of cars that may use Horton Street, set at 3000 vehicles per day, before a mandatory set of traffic calming procedures kicks in.  The idea is that the traffic calming fixes will lower the number of vehicles that use the bike boulevard down below the 3000 maximum.  It should be noted Emeryville's 3000 number earmarked for bike boulevards is larger than any other city in the Bay Area. 

A choker is an example of a 'neckdown'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescibed traffic calming comes in a series of increasingly interventionist levels, one through five, that reduces traffic volume and speed, the last such level resulting in a total diversion for through traffic.  Each level requires two years to adequately assess its efficacy.  

At this point, Horton Street has already gone through the first three traffic calming levels; these involve street stenciling, signage and intersection "bulb-outs".  Now, since traffic has not subsided on Horton (it's actually increased), it's time for level 4 traffic calming to be implemented according to the Plan.
Level 4 calls for "significant traffic calming", specifically, 'neck downs' or traffic limiters such as 'chokers', designed to act like a one lane bridge permitting only one car through at a time.

Here's what the Bike Plan calls for on Emeryville's bike boulevards:

Level 1 Basic Bicycle Boulevard- signs, pavement markings
Level 2 Enhanced Bicycle Boulevard- wayfinding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulbouts
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neckdowns
Level 5 Traffic Diversion

Level 5 calls for diverters: This
is called out only if level 4 doesn't
work after two years.
The problem is the Bike Committee has already twice voted on significant traffic calming for Horton Street in years past.  Both times the city council has overridden the committee's findings.  The last time the committee voted unanimously to add such calming, councilwoman Nora Davis explained her veto to the committee, "I have no problem putting paint on the asphalt [pavement markings]" but anything more dramatic than that would draw a veto from her and consequently also from the council majority.

In the intervening two and a half years since the last council veto shutting down Horton Street traffic calming, the city has commissioned and now encoded the $200,000 Alta study.

While we acknowledge Ms Davis' forthrightness in explaining to the people why they shouldn't expect safe biking routes in town, we call on the rest of the council to abide by the new Bike Plan they have adopted.  The fact that other such documents have been subverted in the past by the council should not serve as a precedent for inaction on Horton Street.  It's never too late to start working towards livability and rational public policy.  Let's make bicycling safe on the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard.  It's time for a choker on Horton Street.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Emeryville Closes Out Year With Lots of 100% Rental Development

More Than 1000 Residential Rental Units Coming
Change in Emeryville Demographics 

Where's the Public Debate?

The City of Emeryville is ending the year with a big push to add new residents.  Lots of residents, all in four 100% rental development projects.  These four projects will deliver 1045 new units and increase the population of our town by 15%.  In a city with only 10,000 residents, that represents a substantial increase.  After years of condo building in Emeryville, these all rental projects are a real change and will dramatically transform the demographics for our town.

The following new projects are either already approved or moving to approval and are 100% rental:

  • Sherwin Williams Project: 460 units
  • Avalon Bay project: 260 units
  • Marketplace phase one: 225 units
  • Maz project: 100 units
At 1045 rental units, some with more than one dweller, the increase in population will probably be over 1500.  Adding to this number are other rental units at new development projects either approved, recently finished or in the pipeline that are not 100% rental but contain some condos.

A new Emeryville resident

Rental residents tend to be different from homeowner residents.  They aren't as vested in their towns and they tend to be less civically minded.  Recent renters in Emeryville specifically have been primarily made up of San Francisco tech workers looking for cheaper rent than San Francisco offers.  These workers tend to be single and work long hours meaning they tend to drive in, "cocoon" and drive out.  The result is an under utilized commons, with a populace that generally feels little allegiance to the neighborhood or the town.   Also, renters tend to look less critically at civic projects involving raises in property taxes, increasing the opportunity for abuses by decision makers and developers that would stand to benefit.

Emeryville is experiencing this 100% rental building boom because the rental market in the Bay Area is extremely robust right now and developers are eager to cash in.  With its well earned reputation for accommodating developers, City Hall has stepped up to the plate and quickly moved these projects forward.  
The City Council is letting this wave wash over us.  They're letting the developers do what they want to do...and what they want to do now is build rental units.  What the Council is not allowing is a public debate about this.

Emeryville City Council members have historically never been fond of city planning.  They've never been known to defer to planning regulations, opting instead to let developers build our town as the real estate market there's no change here in that regard.  But what IS different, what HAS changed is that profit maximization in the market now dictates that 100% rental only projects be built, and that promises to change our town.  We need to be aware this resulting development will be here for generations to come.  Is this something we want?  Is it wise?  Is this something that will improve our town?  

There should be a public debate about this.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Worker Owned Cooperatives' Needed to Restore Emeryville's Tarnished Reputation

A Large Corporate Low Wage Service Sector 
Makes For a Town Without a Soul 

We Need Living Wage Jobs

Enter Worker Owned Co-Ops

Opinion/News Analysis
There's been much public debate in Emeryville over the years over how to best develop our town even as City Hall long ago settled on a pro-developer course, regardless of the debate.  As a result of this willful ignorance, many have come to rightfully condemn Emeryville decision makers over the flawed auto-centric model of development those decision makers have brought to our town over the last 20 some odd years.  This model, favored by developers, has brought us lots of shopping malls and drive-in drive-out lofts (formally condos, now morphing into one bedroom 100% rental projects).
This is well understood by Emeryville residents as our town's once unique character is eroded and the streets become ever more clogged with traffic.
But what's been debated less is how this model, resplendent with fast food franchises and retail chain stores, also brings a plethora of low wage/ no benefits service jobs that seem to be attached at the hip with this brand of development.  So ubiquitous now is this kind of development in Emeryville, minimum wage/ zero benefits service sector jobs have fairly come to be seen as representative of Emeryville and its values by the greater community.
This is who we are at this point, like it or not.
This is Emeryville
Minimum wage / no benefits;
the corporate service sector is
who we now are.

As Emeryville starts a new building spree in the wake of a recovering regional economy and with a finite amount of land left to develop, we need a new development model to fill out our town, one that will temper our 20 year binge of alienating, unsustainable and usurious development.  We need a new paradigm of public policy out of City Hall to create retail service sector jobs that pay a living wage and treat their workers with respect and dignity.  We need to become a model for how cities can move forward instead of a model for what's gone wrong in the Bay Area and beyond.
Attracting worker owned co-operatives to our town offers us the chance to remake our image and reclaim a city that more properly reflects our values.

Formerly known as a mecca for high paying mostly blue collar jobs in the East Bay, Emeryville long ago jettisoned that mantle, now instead there's been a wholesale embracing of the corporate low wage service sector model.  In so doing, not only have we thrown our town over to cars and all the degraded environment that comes with that, we also have shirked our civic moral duties to build a town that works for everybody.  The fact that we didn't shirk these duties in the past means we can do it again.  We can create a new municipal polity.

Enter Worker Owed Co-Ops
Businesses where the workers themselves own the enterprise represent a different model for how retail stores and other business can be refashioned in Emeryville.  These worker owned businesses offer a living wage and benefits for their workers. They also offer Emeryville residents a moral choice as they comport their daily transactions in the commons.
 So what exactly is a worker owned co-op?  The Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC or "no boss"), the oldest and largest regional association of democratic workplaces in the United States, tell us these kinds of businesses are enterprises that produce goods, distributes goods and/or provides services and are owned and democratically controlled by its worker-owners.  Worker owned cooperatives generally have comparable or better pay (salary/wages plus profit-sharing) and benefits than comparably-sized conventional businesses in similar industries.  This is because the worker-owners decide what percentage of profits will go to themselves and what percentage will be retained by the cooperative.  Moreover, worker cooperatives don’t have overpaid managers, owners and outside shareholders who siphon money from the business.  These businesses allow money spent by residents to stay in the community, bolstering the local economy.  Worker owned co-ops run the gamut on types of businesses from bike shops and restaurants to web services, financial services and bookstores.  Just about any business can be a worker owned co-op.

Emeryville already has two such worker owned co-ops right now, San Pablo Avenue's Arizmendi Bakery and Pedal Express, a bicycle courier company on Powell Street. 

Pedal Express
Pedal Express is the East Bay's only bicycle courier company.  They have been worker owned and operated for the past twenty years and perhaps ironically count the City of Emeryville as one of their clients.
Co-owner Dominic Lucchesi says Pedal Express offers a different vision from Emeryville's current business sector model.  He told the Tattler, "Cooperatives provide long-term job opportunities with growth potential.  We at Pedal Express pride ourselves on paying a living wage, offering meaningful benefits, and encouraging flexibility and creativity.  The cooperative model also provides workers with a sense of ownership and connection to their community and its businesses.  These desirable qualities are often lacking in the low-paying service sector jobs that are all too common in today's corporate franchises and big box stores."

Arizmendi Bakery vs Panera Bakery
Arizmendi Bakery has operated at 4301 San Pablo Avenue since 2003 after former councilman John Fricke worked to attract the popular cooperative to the newly built Emeryville Promenade amid skeptical colleagues on the Council.  The bakery has been extremely popular offering a locally owned counter point to the national chain restaurant  I-HOP also in the Promenade development.
Arizmendi Bakery and Panera Bakery on 40th Street offers us a chance to directly compare the two business models:

Arizmendi Bakery (worker owned cooperative model)-
  • pays at least $16 per hour
  • full health insurance and dental coverage for all
  • worker owned and democratically run
  • worker/owners share in year end profits
  • stipends paid for work related purchases
  • five Bay Area locations
  • Emeryville store is independently owned

Panera Bakery (standard Emeryville corporate model)-
  • pays employees $8.06 per hour
  • no benefits
  • stockholder owned and run by CEO and Board of Directors
  • more than 1500 locations across the US and Canada
  • corporate headquarters in St Louis MO
  • Emeryville unit sends its profits to the corporate headquarters

Worker owned cooperatives have also been shown to increase social justice and stability.  Cal Berkeley graduate student Amanda Cook, wrote a 2009 thesis documenting this benefit.  From her study, "In many conventional workplaces, workers perceive their interests as opposing corporate interests. Worker cooperatives, on the other hand, promote the idea that business practices should be compatible with everyone’s interests. Instead of becoming a battleground for individual and corporate interests, worker cooperatives adopt a family-like atmosphere of support, mutual responsibility, and, of course, cooperation."    
Ms Cook documents how worker cooperatives provide benefit to workers and the surrounding community in three major ways; she shows how this work " intrinsically valuable, participatory democracy is an educational activity, and active participation in decision making in one social sphere is likely to encourage active participation in other spheres."

The plight of minimum and low wage workers has been much in the news recently as fast food and other workers take to the streets to protest.  The corporate model is cruel and not sustainable.  These workers cannot survive on these wages and many are forced to use food stamps and other government provided services to make ends meet. Besides being an unethical abdication of government duty, this model represents a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers to the wealthy.  Emeryville has been complicit in this.
However Dave Karoly of NoBAWC says it doesn't have to be this way, "There is no reason why there can't be more than two worker owned cooperatives in Emeryville.  The establishment of more (worker) cooperatives in Emeryville would help change the perception of people living outside Emeryville that the city is just a destination for retail chain shopping" he told the Tattler.

The Emeryville Chamber of Commerce, historically an advocacy group for Emeryville's largest corporations on the other hand doesn't appear to be comfortable with such worker empowerment talk.  Chamber CEO Bob Canter was contacted for this story but he refused to comment.

Developers, itching to take advantage of a newly favorable market (especially in rental properties), are loading up the agendas at the Planning Commission and at City Council meetings.  A glut of new residential development is moving forward towards permit approval at City Hall from the Sherwin Williams project to the Avalon Bay project, to the Market Place development to the (just approved) Maz project, and there's more in the pipeline.  These development proposals all contain retail components along their respective street fronts.  This is where a new polity of worker owned cooperatives can be developed.

We need to realize how un-radical this whole idea is....or should be.  Neighboring cities are expanding these cooperatives and they're realizing the benefits.  Indeed, our own General Plan requires us to approve development that provides jobs for Emeryville residents.  These low wage service sector jobs aren't cutting it.  Workers at these jobs have to travel to our town for their employment since these corporate service jobs don't pay enough to afford to live in Emeryville.  This type of retail and fast food development is expressly forbidden by Emeryville's General Plan and yet there doesn't seem to be much of an interest among the decision makers at City Hall to rectify this.

Emeryville's new mayor Jac Asher is an outlier.  She agrees worker owned cooperatives offer a better way for Emeryville moving forward and she has publicly called for it.
We like Mayor Asher's idea; let's start adding these worker owned neighborhood enhancing kinds of retail establishments as conditions of approval for these incipient development proposals across town.  We've had more than our share of the neighborhood degrading and morally bankrupt low wage service sector development here thank you.  Let's finally start the job of making a livable town here in Emeryville.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Who's Building Emeryville's Sherwin Williams Project?

Tjlisul Skosnbn Jinkleb Tken!

The Sherwin Williams project, the most consequential development in recent Emeryville history, is going to massively impact our town.  With up to 1000 new residents and a glut of traffic generated by the project, Emeryville residents would be well served to know just who's behind this project.  The answer is SRM Ernst Development Partners, an Oakland development company.  A recent check of the corporation's website clears it up for us.  Here are the main characters responsible for this Emeryville project:

Joe Ernst
Joe Ernst
Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Donec sed odio dui. Integer posuere erat a ante venenatis dapibus posuere velit aliquet. Nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue. Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
Project Manager
Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Cras justo odio, dapibus ac facilisis in, egestas eget quam. Donec ullamcorper nulla non metus auctor fringilla. Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor.
Project Manager
Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Cras justo odio, dapibus ac facilisis in, egestas eget quam. Donec ullamcorper nulla non metus auctor fringilla. Vivamus sagittis lacus vel augue laoreet rutrum faucibus dolor auctor.

To any that might be concerned, the company's website  assures us, "Emeryville project nulla vitae elit libero, a pharetra augue."  

This text is lifted verbatim from their website.  It's just one page of many like it.  We should all be cognizant of the fact that the people who tell us they can build a massively impacting project like this, a project that will benefit us all because of their high level of competence they say, are the same ones that run a website like this.

Update: 1/1/14
Sherwin Williams developer SRM Ernst must be Tattler fans!  Sometime after this Tattler story posted, SRM Ernst pulled the website.  After sitting out there for more than a year, they've finally taken it down.  Below is the screenshot we took....they can't take THAT down!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Traffic Diverter Installed on Horton Street Bike Boulevard!

Emeryville residents woke Monday morning to find 'the little city that can't' had been transformed into 'the little city that can'.  After waiting some 10 years for traffic calming on the city's premier bike boulevard, Horton Street,  a traffic diverter was installed early Monday morning, closing the street to vehicle traffic between 45th and 53rd streets.  Bicycles and pedestrians can still move freely down the street but vehicles are forced onto 45th Street for northbound travelers and 53rd Street for southbound travelers.  The action now completes the long promised Horton Street Bike Boulevard since bikes are able to safely use the street without worry, the 12,000 vehicles per day as counted by the City having been tamed by the new diverter.

Horton Street Traffic Diverted... No Deaths
Somehow, this was accomplished without conducting
a $10,000 study.  If it was done once, maybe it can
be done again... for bikes. 
To clarify, it was not City Hall that installed the diverters, rather it was the East Bay Municipal Water District that diverted Horton Street traffic.  And unfortunately, the closure of the street is only to last one day while some repair work is done.
But the street closure proves the point about redirecting traffic without benefit of a study as City Hall staff insists is prudent and necessary.  City Hall is maintaining $10,000 must be spent to figure out how to apply temporary bollards the City's Bike Plan calls for to calm traffic for bikes to safely use Horton Street (since there's so many vehicles using the street).
EBMUD didn't conduct a study for Monday's action; they simply obtained an over the counter permit from City Hall and then put up bollards and a couple of street closed signs, all in the same day.  It was notable because the diverter was installed without a major study and no deaths or injuries resulted.  No fights, hurt feelings or bruised egos.  No one got shot and World War 3 didn't happen.

We're pretty surprised City Hall issues permits for construction companies or other governmental agencies to put up bollards and redirect traffic on our streets with so little fanfare and such ease after insisting they can't do it to benefit bicyclists without spending $10,000 to conduct a fancy long-winded study.  EBMUD did it in one day while bicyclists have been waiting for ten years for the same thing.
It seems like it's almost as if the City doesn't care about bikes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Emeryville Can't Seem to Close the Deal on Bike Boulevards

10 Years On, We're Still Waiting for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard

$10,000 to Study a Study

Opinion/News Analysis
It's Emeryville!  And everyone loves bicycles, right?
We think so much of bikes here, some ten years ago we heralded our premier north/south bike corridor as our first 'Bicycle Boulevard'.   And that means the purple signs went up and paint stencils on the asphalt went down.
But is that all there is?  Are we finished?  Can we wash our hands of it now?

Purple Sign:
Nice, but you need more 

than this to make a Bike Boulevard.
No, we're not finished.  The problem is that even though purple signs proliferated and asphalt stencils were dutifully applied proudly proclaiming Horton Street to be a bike boulevard, the street isn't a bike boulevard yet.  It takes more than this to make a bike boulevard as it turns out.  
Ten years on, we still don't have a bike boulevard on Horton Street.   We're still waiting.
Emeryville's Bike Plan, approved unanimously years ago by the City Council is clear on this subject; a bike boulevard must also be a place where bikers can travel in safety.  That means fewer cars and that's the problem on Horton Street.  There are far too many cars and as a result bicycling is unsafe there.
The Bike Plan has the solution: a bike boulevard cannot have more than 3000 vehicle trips per day sharing the street with the bicyclists.  And Horton Street has anywhere from 4800 to over 12000 vehicles (depending on where) as measured by the City.

Bike Stencil:
Add this and you still don't
have a Bike Boulevard.
Horton Street has turned out to be a very contentious thoroughfare.  Bikers want use of it but so do developers and business owners.  The latter wants full use of the street for automobile and truck traffic for their customers, clients and tenants.  Wareham Development's CEO Rich Robbins came right out and publicly said it; Horton Street should be exclusively for vehicles he said.  It shouldn't be a bike boulevard at all he says.  He posits bikes are interfering with commercial uses of the street.  Cutting into his profits it would seem.

Who Gets to Use Horton Street?
But the question of who gets to use Horton Street has already been settled.  That argument was finalized years ago when the City Council approved the $200,000 Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.  It's the law in Emeryville.
Even with purple signs and stencils
you can still wind up with this.

The number of vehicles need to be
limited to make a street safe
for bicyclists.
Horton Street is primarily for bicyclists.  Cars and trucks can share use of the street, but bikes are supposed to be the prime users.  That's what a bike boulevard is.  Otherwise, it would just be a normal street with funny purple signs and stencils.
The way we make bicycles the primary users is by use of traffic calming solutions spelled out in the Bike Plan.  The traffic calming guarantees no more than 3000 vehicle trips per day, the upper limit for a bike boulevard.
There are five levels of traffic calming, each level more regulatory and stringent than the previous. We made it through to Level Three no problem. But we seem to be incapable of moving from Level Three to Level Four on Horton Street, because Level Four traffic calming would start to actually curtail vehicle traffic, a big problem for the developers and the businesses.
Level Four mandates use of 'chokers' or narrowing of the street to make it impossible for two vehicles to pass each other at the same time (at two critical locations on Horton).  It's supposed to make the street less convenient for cars and trucks, pushing some of them to other streets to keep the bike boulevard safe for bikes.  After two years if the chokers don't work, if they are ineffectual at keeping traffic less than 3000 per day, the Bike Plan calls for Level Five 'diverters' to be used, allowing only emergency vehicles, buses and bikes through.

The Status Quo is a Comfortable Place
This is what a Bike Boulevard
should look like: primarily bikes.
Most of the people that matter in Emeryville (the business owners, the developers and the City Council majority) like Horton Street just the way it is.  They don't want Level Four (or Level Five) traffic calming.  They feel fine putting more and more traffic on the street and keeping the purple signs and the street stencils.
Council member Nora Davis came right out and publicly said it; she has no problem with signs and stencils but chokers and diverters are something she will not allow.  Apparently Ms Davis has no problem subverting the same Bike Plan she herself voted to implement.

Study the Study: $10,000
But the ingrates on the Bike Committee keep insisting the Bike Plan be followed, forcing the reluctant City Council to make decisions.  After years of stalling on traffic calming for Horton Street, the Council now has a new idea.  The Study (the already approved Bike Plan) now must be studied they say before they can move.  They can't glue down temporary rubber bollards forming a choker like the Bike Plan says because it must be studied how to do that (never mind that the Plan tells us how to do it).  Realize these rubber bollards are to last only for two years so we can see if they are effective in limiting the number of vehicles to 3000.  So the City of Emeryville is going to spend almost $10,000 to study the study after which time they'll presumably come up with another reason why the $200,000 Bike Plan can't be followed.
We have to ask why it's so difficult and imprudent to just glue down the bollards now and save the $10,000 (other than the benefits that can be had by stalling for more time).  The City Engineer says its imprudent to glue down bollards redirecting traffic a little without a major study.  But how is it so standard (no study required) for the City to do just that when doing street work as they routinely do?  Or for the developers themselves?  They do it all the time and there's never a study performed.  Now it seems to be some perplexing nearly impossible task.

Ten years is too long to wait.  The City of Emeryville is obviously stalling.  It's obvious they don't want to move Horton Street to Level Four traffic calming because the City Council's developer friends don't want it.  With up to 12,000 cars a day on Horton Street, readers need to remember that it's not a bike boulevard at all regardless of all the signs and stencils.  And so we will continue to wait.
What we will get is City Council member's constant public crowing about how much they love bikes, especially in their re-election campaign literature.  They never stall on THAT.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Avalon Bay: Another 100% Rental Housing Project Proposed for Emeryville

The San Francisco Business Times reports on the impending Avalon project, another 100% rental residential project slated for Emeryville.   San Pablo Avenue's Maz project, the Market Place development and the Sherwin Williams project are all new housing projects proposed at 100% rental.  Rental real estate is the new craze among profit seeking developers since the return on this kind of housing is so high right now.  Condos have been shown to be profitable in this market as well, but not as much as rental projects.  
So rental projects are what we're getting in Emeryville.  
Years from now people will look back on this latest construction boom and ask why there were so many 100% rental projects built during this time.  The answer will be that because of specific market peculiarities in the years 2013 and 2014, rental units turned out to be the best way for developers to maximize their profits at the time.
Read about the latest development to happen without planning oversight in our town as reported by the SF Business Times: 

Dec 12, 2013, 2:45pm PST
Avalon Bay dives into Emeryville with 260-unit project

San Francisco Business Times

AvalonBay is working to entitle a 260-unit, eight-story apartment building in Emeryville that could break ground in 2015.

The developer is in contract to buy a 2.3-acre site at 6701 Shellmond St. and expects to get city approvals for the project by the middle of next year.
“The Emeryville, Oakland, Berkeley corridor is appealing,” said Jeff White, senior development director for AvalonBay. “We see good opportunities to provide as good or better quality of living as in San Francisco at substantially less cost.”

AvalonBay plans to build a 260-unit, eight-story apartment building at 6701 Shellmond St. in Emeryville.The project, right by the Ashby exit off Interstate 80, is next to Ex’pression College of the Arts and across Ashby from Berkeley's Aquatic Park.

MBH Architects came up with design to fit on a triangular site that is now home to a warehouse occupied by Nady Systems, a designer and maker of wireless microphones and other audio equipment.

The building will contain units ranging from studios to three bedrooms ranging from 770 to 1,525 square feet with views of the Berkeley Hills to the east and the bay to the west.
AvalonBay is also building a 94-unit building at the corner of Third and Addison streets in Berkeley, which is also off of Interstate 80 just one exit up from the Emeryville site.
The Berkeley project is next to an Amtrak station and within walking distance to the 4th Street retail corridor. The project was started by Archstone, a company that sold all its assets to Equity Residential and AvalonBay last year.

Blanca Torres covers East Bay real estate for the San Francisco Business Times.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Popular Emeryville Cafe on the Rocks, Seeks Landlord Rapprochment

Cafe Aquarius is hosting a BBQ  tomorrow with hopes of securing enough signatures from passionate fans to force their landlord's hand as he moves to close down operations at the popular 65th Street bistro.  The E'ville Eye recently reported on the travails of how the breakfast/lunch eatery will be forced out after seven years of serving the north Emeryville area.  Many aficionados have noted Cafe Aquarius is exactly the kind of small locally serving business City Hall says they are trying to attract.
In addition to signature gathering, video interviews will be conducted for those who wish to partake.  Cafe Aquarius is located at 1298 65th Street between Hollis Street and the Greenway.  The BBQ event will go from 5PM to 7PM, Friday.

Horton Street Crematorium Running Up Against Oakland Resident Backlash

After wearing out its welcome in Emeryville, Horton Street's Apollo Crematorium continues to run up against a reluctant populace in Oakland, the site of its proposed relocation.  Apollo is one of California's busiest crematoriums, incinerating 3000 to 4000 bodies a year, injecting toxins into the air in the Park Avenue area, an increasingly residential neighborhood.  It's bad for Oakland AND Emeryville.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Toxins from burning bodies bad for Oakland, lawsuit says

Published 5:19 pm, Wednesday, December 11, 2013
(12-11) 17:18 PST OAKLAND -- Oakland approved a large crematorium in an East Oakland industrial area without first considering the health impacts of burning some 3,000 bodies a year, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by an East Oakland environmental group.
The suit, announced Wednesday by Communities for a Better Environment, alleges that Oakland's city planners wrongly considered the crematorium a "general manufacturing facility" that could be approved without a public hearing.
Residents of East Oakland worry the crematorium planned at 98th Avenue and Kitty Lane will spew toxins into an area already polluted by exhaust from a nearby freeway and airport.
"We're in the midst of more toxic pollution here because we're a disenfranchised community," said Maxine Oliver-Benson, a resident of East Oakland and member of the environmental group. "Our families' health is not being taken seriously and we don't want the dead to kill the living."
The plan is for the Neptune Society, owned by Stewart Enterprises, to shutter its long-standing crematorium in Emeryville and move to an empty building at the corner of industrial East Oakland, made up of mostly warehouses, truck yards and parking lots. Stewart Enterprises was also named in the suit.
Neptune's Emeryville facility is small and outdated, and with Baby Boomers getting older, demand in the Bay Area for crematoriums is only going to keep rising, the company has said.
Mike Miller, president of the Neptune Society of Northern California, said he hadn't seen the suit and could not comment. Alex Katz, a spokesman for City Attorney Barbara Parker, also declined to comment.
The city approved a permit for the new facility without fanfare in the spring of 2012. Regulators with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said at the time that the crematorium would not release enough pollution to be a risk to the community.
When residents learned of the plan they immediately took issue. The City Council has since passed emergency legislation regulating crematoriums and tried to slow the process, but efforts to kill the plan or force a public hearing have so far failed.
The fiery rhetoric, nevertheless, continues.
"Stewart Enterprise have been tone deaf to seniors, families and other residents in the community who have expressed legitimate health and safety concerns about this project," said Rev. Daniel Buford of East Oakland's Allen Temple Baptist Church. "As a result of not considering these concerns, I am calling upon all clergy to boycott them because we are deeply concerned with the health and well being of the living."
Will Kane is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: wkane@9sfchronicle.comTwitter: @WillKane